Critical Mass

A recap of the releases that made it worthwhile to own a CD player in 1998

7. Rialto, Rialto (Sire) Burped up from the late, great Kinky Machine are English press darlings Rialto, who in their cocksure suits and tidy coifs manage bucketfuls of masterful pop tying in bits of Pulp, Zombies and the Jam.

Very English, then; but they did style the best three minutes all year in "Hard Candy."

8. The Candyskins, Death of a Minor TV Celebrity (Velvel) The 'Skins' best, and not just because of a glorified sense of irony (how else does one do power-pop anymore?) but because of a greater hook-to-shite ratio: 11 songs here; two out and out blow turds, two sink with Britpop pretenses, and the rest define the inspiration to want to pick up the guitar and learn songwriting. Good batting average, these days.

The autobiographical "Going Nowhere" has this season's most boss verse, best describing the feelings of being in a rock band when nobody cares about rock bands anymore: "Going nowhere/Someone try and stop me/Can't fake it any longer/Took so long to come this far." Hats off.

9. The Queers, Punk Rock Confidential (Hopeless) Yeah! This calendar year's best slab o' merriment to send ya through the roof and over rectangles of suburban rooftops with a grinning visage, contorted torso and flailing appendages--jus' like loud punk rawk is supposed ta. Plenty of Ramones nods ("Everything's O.K." reverses Ramones' "Go all the Way"), Rancid digs ("Rancid Motherfucker") and '60s icon bashing ("Mrs. Brown, You've Got an Ugly Daughter") to add to the tropospheric frolic. Have three chords, will travel.

10. Evelyn Forever, Lost in the Supermarket (The Airplay Label) Really (and queerly) what ya got is a quartet of semi-nerdy New Jerseyites born in and of '70s dreamin', thinkin' The Motors, Badfinger, Pilot and later, Material Issue ("Baby Blue" and "Spin" are pure Jim Ellison). When they sing "I've got a crush on you" over 1-5-4 pop chords, you can just see their porcelain white skin scrubbed to a sheen, their innocence immaculate and conceivable; like they don't know kids ain't writin' or buyin' songs like this anymore. All the more reason . . .

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